Tuesday, 31 July 2012

This Time, I Remembered the Camera

A hazy Sunday morning view of Edinburgh

There are only a few minutes until midnight and the end of July and the beginning of August. I shall be unlikely to finish this blog before the bewitching hour but at least, I shall have made an attempt to start a blog before July is out. As my last blog was on the 2nd. of June, it has been almost two months since I added my little bit of wisdom or silliness (you pick) to the world wide web.

My inspiration for making the effort to tap the old keyboard was to update my blog of the 9th. April. Therein, I bemoaned the fact that I had gone on a wee drive in the country to the west of the city in which I have spent most of my life but went on that little trip without a camera. The scenery had looked fantastic in the clear air and the glorious lighting. I vowed to return some day with a camera, although I felt that I was unlikely to be blessed with the same great photo conditions and so it was to prove. This Sunday, with my camera, I tried to recreate the opportunity for photographic marvellousness that I stupidly missed in April. The clouds did allow the sun to grace us with it's warmth and light but also took delight in denying such pleasures when they felt the urge. There was even a hint of rain (how unusual !!!). However, I did manage to capture some views from a hill known as The Knock and enclose a sample of my efforts.

The view above is looking east and if you scan to the left of centre, you should be able to locate the control tower of the airport, while above that, is Grannies (Corstorphine) Hill*. To the right, the great bulk of Arthur"s Seat can be seen, while beyond, from left to right are the hills in Fife, East Lothian and Midlothian. Lost within the haze, is the City of Edinburgh and I was tempted to think that someone, say a thousand years ago, standing on the same hill, would have seen the same outline although without the same details and certainly no airport control tower. I also felt that I was like a traveller, seeing the city for the first time, with only the bird song in my ears and the expectation of what might await me when I entered through it's gates. While everything and everybody that is important to me and has shaped me as a person is or has been in that city, I have never felt that I totally belong to the city. However, I was standing in the county in which I was born and not that far from the very place of my birth and yet I can't claim to be anything but a visitor to West Lothian. It would seem that I shall have to accept that perhaps I am always just a visitor to this lifetime, as are we all.

                                         * Please see my previous blog on this Hill.

View looking southwest with wind turbines on the horizon.

Looking west with the ruins of farm buildings.

Looking north passed the stone circles to the Kingdom of Fife.

It is now well into the first day of August and my bed beckons, so I must take my leave of your good self. I would promise to blog again soon but you would be quite right to disbelieve such promises, so I will simply say that I hope we meet again over the digital ether at some time in the future. Until then, may you enjoy your world and the people that inhabit it.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Allotments, Castle and a new beginning !

Edinburgh Castle as seen from the Allotments in Inverleith Park

Oh dear, Oh dear, it has been a long time. My plans of creating a regular blog still seem to elude me.

However, I recently read the blog of one of my nephews and his use of photographs and text, illustrating his daily wanderings through his life has put me to shame. So therefore, I am making another effort to record my wanderings through my life using my pictures and my poor words.

The above photograph is here for two reasons. The first is that it is an example of what I am hoping to achieve with my art. A record of the world as I see it. It was taken last summer and the juxtaposition of the sharp imagery of the plant life (in the original image) and the hazy outline of the hard rock of the castle I find very appealing. With the combination of the lighting, colour and tone, it has a simple attraction to me and while not earth shattering in it's subject matter, it has become one of my favourite images.

The second reason for showing the picture is that my daughter has been kind enough to let me add some of my 'masterpieces' to her stall at some recent craft fairs, although I have to admit that my sales success has been limited. In the hope of producing a more affordable 'product', I had some smaller prints placed in greeting card mounts but sales still eluded me. It seems that the few people who visited the fair did not have the money or interest in purchasing the craft work on show as adjoining stalls also had few sales. At least my daughter covered her immediate costs and my one sale of the day, was one of my photo greeting cards to a nice lady of the above image. I can only grow from that.

Until the next (hopefully soon) time  

Thursday, 19 April 2012

April 19th.

Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh, taken from near the Union Canal, near Ratho.

Today was a special day for me and my brothers, as on the 19th. April, three years ago, our Mother died. We met up at Warriston Crematorium, where we perused the entry in the Book of Remembrance and each of us, no doubt, had our own thoughts on the meaning of the words that lay there on the vellum page. I will not repeat the words, as I think that they are our own and for us only but I am sure that they reflected our Mother's character and the legacy that she passed on to us.

We of course, do not need any book or other device to bring the memories of the person who brought us into the world, gave us our start and guided us as we made our faltering way through the ups and downs of life. My brothers, no doubt, have had their own thoughts and memories and I know that in the last few days, I have spent much time, thinking of her and our Father and being grateful for the hard work and the many sacrifices that they made, uncomplainingly, in bringing up their sometime not always appreciative sons. As three years have passed, I find that the painful memories of her last few weeks of illness and her passing are now falling into their proper place in the story of her life. Now, as each year winds it's way through time, we can rejoice in the the many happy and joyful times that we were blessed to have shared with our Mother and that legacy that we are honoured to continue and celebrate.

Our Mother had always maintained that, "apart from the deaths", she had had a good life. She always had a positive and happy attitude to life and showed a courage and strong resolution to that life and the problems and difficulties that fate threw at her. She was a widow for much longer than as a wife and with the death of our six week old brother from a cot death, our Father, still a relatively young man, passing away after many years of illness with kidney failure and the death of our other brother in a drowning accident, the winging and demanding parents of today would have much to learn from her strength and fortitude.

Each time our Mother made her own pilgrimage to Warriston, she always had a list of all of the good, happy and positive things that had happened in her life in the year since her last visit. I hope and indeed, I am sure, that seeing her three sons chatting happily over coffee and tea and cake, she would be proud, happy and content.

You may be wondering why a rather mundane photograph of an unassuming hill should feature above in this blog. It is one of the many hills of Edinburgh (there are supposedly seven, as in Rome) and Corstorphine Hill was our indicator that we where nearly home when returning from our travels. Our Mother enjoyed much pleasure from the woods on the top of the hill, walking our dog, meeting neighbours walking their dogs. Even when her fitness would not allow her these pleasures, she enjoyed watching, from her house opposite the woods, the regular dog-walkers and of course their dogs. She had always been very fond of dogs and would relive the time when she would meet with and share conversations with friends and neighbours as together, they all walked their dogs.

The hill is visible from much of Edinburgh and is therefore a constant reminder, as if one was needed, of our Mother and will always, for us, be known not as Corstorphine Hill but as 'Grannies Hill'.

Until the next time.....


Monday, 9 April 2012

A Fisherman's Tale

Yesterday, being Sunday and having dropped my wife of at her church, on a whim, I decided to go for a little morning drive. Having collected my Sunday Paper, I turned the car left and headed for the wilds of my home county of West Lothian. Had I turned the car right, I would have headed home. However, I was now heading west and I knew where I was going.

I am one of the many Bangour Bairns. I was born in the Bangour General Hospital (not the Bangour Village Mental Hospital next door) but I have never seen it since those first moments of life and I was not paying much attention then. The hospital is gone and has been for some time. It was replaced by the new St. Johns Hospital in nearby Livingston. It had only been a temporary structure (that lasted for decades), built to deal with the injuries of wartime, with the new hospital, the long wooden huts of Bangour were soon removed, returning the fields to their agricultural uses. Now, only green fields mark the area where I first entered this wonderful, exciting and constantly interesting world. Lest you think that I was born in a field, there are books and old maps that record the time and existence of the hospital. However, looking over the field, I felt that, had I been born on that grass, I was in good company, as the many sheep that grazed there had brought young spring lambs into the world. The lambs had a rather curious expressions, as they looked at me, unaware that they were part of my thoughts. We were both fortunate to share the same place of birth.

When I had first arrived, a local dog showed it's displeasure at me disturbing it's Sunday devotions by barking loudly and fearlessly. I approached it in an attempt to make friends with it, my bravery being augmented by the high and strong fence that stood between us. The dog was having none of this and it was only when his much more friendly owner appeared, I was pointed to the field that I had made my small pilgrimage to find. As I left, she probably thought that our canine friend was worth every penny of his Winalot, when there were such weird people about.

I left that field to the sheep and their new offspring and headed home by the scenic route. It was a lovely morning and while the sun was somewhere behind the clouds, it's light filtered through those clouds with a silver gleam that spread on the landscape with a bright but soft luminous glow. The grass had a brilliance of colour because of the previous day's rain. That rain had also washed the haze from the air and you could see for miles. The distant hills and mountains in every direction had a lovely blue/grey or purple colour to them. Even a distant wind farm looked beautiful, with its majestic turbines lazily turning in the gentle wind. It reminded me that you do not have to travel to the highlands of Scotland, magnificent as they are, to see such fantastic scenery. The lowlands, just a few miles from Edinburgh and our other great cities, can present a landscape that can rid your soul of all the insanity that our modern lives soak up.

You have probably guessed where this is going. The Fisherman's Tale is usually about the one that got away. In my case, it was dozens or possibly more. With this beautiful landscape all around me, its colours and that fantastic lighting, only my memory had captured that lovely Sunday morning. Yes, I was without a camera. The whim that had made me turn left, rather than right, made sure that my Canon camera was able to continue it's slumbers, untroubled by having to work out focus or shutter speeds. The embarrassment that I feel at missing such an opportunity will at least make sure that a camera will always be with me, although such a magical scene may never present it self again

I had planned not to show any photographs, reinforcing my shame at not having a camera on me but the excuse for showing the above pictures is as part of my explanation of the two hospitals in this area. I have described the General hospital and while nothing remains of its building, the other still remains, if only in the form of its ghosts. The Bangour Village Hospital was so named because of the type of layout of the hospital. It consisted of a number of large stone villas, each placed within a spacious landscape. A church was added later and there was also a nurses home and a recreation hall. It further consisted of other buildings, such as a laundry, a shop and a boiler room and at one time even had its own railway branch. It was in itself a completely self contained 'village', set in open countryside where I hope some of its patients found relief and maybe the return of their sanity. To my knowledge, there has never been a normal village called Bangour.   
Until the next time.....

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A Quiet Day at Blackness

                           Gosh, that must have come from some size of a plug-hole !

Another glorious day and it is still March. Taking advantage of this little bounty of sunniness, my wife and I drove to one of our nearby favourite places, the ancient port of Blackness. Unlike most of our  visit to Blackness, there was only a mild gentle breeze that was most welcome for it's cooling qualities. I can't believe I have written that. Usually the wind, in this little corner of Scotland, has to be endured and at best can be described as fresh and breezy. A sailing boat club is based in this once busy little port. Such a club would not have any purpose if there was a complete lack of wind in this little outpost. It would have to move to Westminster or Holyrood, where there is plenty of wind. 

The top photo is some form of mooring that is completely out of place. It could have come from the nearby castle or possibly from further down the coast. Within the last couple of years, there have been some fierce storms that had the power to move large concrete blocks, so this giant plug would be no problem.

We had a lovely quiet picnic lunch in this children's play ground, which was completely devoid of children, no doubt in school, learning to become good and useful citizens of the future (see last post).  We both felt that the local children were very lucky to have such a safe and healthy place to play. The middle photo shows a play horse, in the park, against the background of the two bridges, silhouetted in the misty distance. We both managed to resist it's charms although the lady I married did have a go on a swing, over which we shall draw a discrete veil.

The lower picture is my feeble attempt to illustrate the obvious echoing of elements of both bridges in the background, with the diamond shaped climbing frame. I just could not find the picture that best showed this link between the two structures in the distance and the structure in the foreground. Only this heavily cropped image rescues the picture. A return visit will be necessary.

It has been a lovely day and because I take photographs, I have a visual reminder of a sunny day, in March, spent with the woman I love, at Blackness. Thank you for your visit and sharing a little of my day. 

Until the next time....    

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Spring Thoughts

As I sit here, writing these few words, I look out onto a glorious sunny summer day. Well, it is only the 22nd. of March and therefore just the beginning of spring but it has been a wonderful day during which my wife and I have occupied ourselves with a spot of gardening. The above photograph was taken yesterday, in equally beautiful weather, in the grounds of Laurieston Castle, a short distance away from our home. Content with the the efforts of our labours, the few squares of 72% cocoa dark chocolate and the view of a blue cloudless sky, I am at peace with the world.

Local children are at play outside, content that their own labours, at the nearby school, are also completed for the day. While working outside in the garden, we heard the excited cries of the children, as they competed in some form of sports day on the school field. It is always uplifting to hear such youthful joy, particularity when it is at a little distance and the volume is not to loud! My brothers and I had a loving and secure upbringing and this should be the right of every child. It is with regret and sadness that in our society, not all children may enjoy this surely most basic right of childhood. When I come into contact with young children, I think of my own largely happy time when I was that age and ponder on what the world will be like when they reach adulthood. Indeed, what sort of world will they have to live in when they reach my antique years. Will flying cars finally exist and how will future generations cope with them constantly falling out of the sky or shall the joys of teleportation save them the daily commute to work or the dubious pleasures of the airport on their way to sunny climes or Mars or the moon.

I hope dear reader, that you will see from the above that I am not a hater of children and will bear this in mind when reading the following rant.

Earlier this week, I was on my travels around my city when the opportunity to ease my aching legs arrived by the appearance of a number 45 bus. The 45 is one of Edinburgh's less frequent services which I seldom seem to see when on my travels. I was beginning to believe that the timetable was a work of fantasy and fiction but here it was, a number 45 bus arriving at the bus stop just as I took up my position in the queue. I started to run through all of the possible destination that this single decker bus would pass on it's route and the variety of walks that I could undertake from any of them. My joy however was short lived. The bus was packed and virtually all of the seats were taken by pupils from a primary school, which for the moment, will be nameless. When I was that age, it was drummed into you, that you should give up your seat if there was an old, disabled or pregnant person standing. Fortunately I only fall into the first category but I was still denied a seat and a little rest before embarking on the next stage of my trek, while the youngsters, no doubt bursting with energy, rested until the demands of playtime. I can still remember the often quite formidable conductors and conductresses (Ah remember them!!!) who would have enforced, with no argument, that surely reasonable acknowledgement of helping those in need of a little assistance.

I do not blame the children. However, there were five teachers/carers present and it does not seem unreasonable that one or more of them could have shown a good example and given up their seat to a crusty old geezer such as myself or indeed, the other oldtimers who were left to stand. However, that would probably spoilt a good natter as they all sat close together. The real cause of this attitude and where I place all blame is with the Parents. They are now the most powerful section of our society and seem to think that the world and everyone in it should revolve around them. They claim that their demands are for the children but I am not having it. It is they who think that the result of a few moment passion should make them special and give them an honoured position in our world. Parenting has never been easy and most of us just make it up as we go along, trying our best to give our offspring the greatest start in life. While in a decent society, we should all do our best to help parents, that should not mean that we should be bombarded with parents constant and deafening demands when they should accept the responsibilities that they brought on themselves.

Well sorry about that, it just came out. Lets hope that when the children of today become parents, they will taken on more of the responsibility, rather than expect the rest of us to do. Although I am not hopeful.

We're ready for our close-up Mr. DeMille !

Three young stars of the Spring garden.  

Thank you for your patience, until the next time..... 


Monday, 19 March 2012

A Trip West

A few days ago, I headed west to Glasgow, the excuse, if one was needed, was to journey there by the recently re-opened Airdrie/Bathgate railway line. A casualty of the passion for closing railway lines, at its height in the 1960s, the line was kept alive at both ends until more enlightened times saw the sense of re-connecting the east and west extremities of this once busy railway. The railway, once again gives the good folk of West Lothian and Lanarkshire an alternative means of visiting the two great cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, which glower at each other over the forty plus miles that separates them. My Father had a great fondness for Glasgow, which I have inherited. In years past, I used to visit the city often but in recent times, my visits have been less frequent. This I am determined to change. Although I have lived most of my life in Edinburgh, I was born in the land that lies between the two cities. I can therefore take a more neutral position in the somewhat silly Edinburgh/Glasgow rivalry. It has always been my opinion that anyone living in the central belt of Scotland and beyond, who does not take advantage of the delights of these very different but equally interesting and absorbing cities, really are losing out on the great experiences that both offer. 

The trip, was for me, quite nostalgic. When I last travelled over the this railway line, I was a mere boy and a puffing steam locomotive would have been at the front of the train.  The two photographs at the top would have shown many ships, some double parked but instead show a river completely devoid of any craft, with two new bridges crossing the empty river. At the top is the pedestrian bridge connecting the area of Tradeston on the south of the river to Glasgow city centre. The second photo is of the famous 'Squinty Bridge', it's formal name {The Clyde Arc}, I have forgotten, as  I am sure have most Glaswegians. The two lower photos are of the South Portland Street pedestrian suspension bridge.

I am determined to visit the great city of the west again soon and hopefully, take many more photographs. I have been asked to make the photos larger and this I shall do. However, until I find  watermark software that I am happy with, I shall limit the quality level of the pics.

I hope to return soon, until then, enjoy your life.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Castles in the Air

Today, I found myself walking along Braid Hills Drive, which is to the south of central Edinburgh. This road affords some magnificent views to the east, north and west. As the sun was sharing it's grace on us mere mortals and the cold air was giving a crisp sharp edge to the day, I abandoned my original plans and headed for this viewpoint. However, as soon as I had arrived, a gang of adolescent clouds, just for a laugh, covered the sun, plunging this view into a dull and grey landscape.  I made a note to return yet again when there are no clouds and took the photo any way.

I have always found it easy to go back, in my mind, to earlier times, with the two castles in this scene, looking at each other across a landscape quite different from today. If you apply your imagination and let the buildings and homes disappear to be replaced by woodlands and fields, you should be able to recreate the medieval scene, with only the two castles forming any evidence of human presence.

You may be having a problem locating one of the castles but if you look to the left of the panorama, just above the woods, you will see Craigmillar Castle. This is better seen in the shot on the right, with the castle in the centre of the picture. This castle is probably best known because of it's connection with Mary Queen of Scots. She stayed there to convalescence after the birth of her son, who was destined to become King James VI of Scotland and then also as James I of England and Ireland.  The castle was built in the 14th. century and if you are the least interested in history and/or castles, then it is well worth a visit. It is looked after by Historic Scotland and the views that can be seen from it's ramparts are fantastic. There is an area to the south of the castle that is to this day, known as Little France. This was because the entourage of Mary Queen of Scots took up residence there and it is now the location of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.  I have not been to the castle for some time but must make a return visit soon. The right hand picture is interesting for other reasons. To the left of the castle, in the distance, is North Berwick Law. This is a hill formed by a volcanic plug of hard rock that even the glaciers of the ice age could not remove. I have never been to the top of this hill but must do so soon. It seems that the older I get, the more hills I fined that I want to climb. While we might be tempted to marvel at the age and history of the castle, it is only a baby when compared to the hill. To complete this age comparison, to the right of the castle, can be seen the coal fired power station of Cockenzie. This also has a history, it started producing power in the late 1960's and is on the site of a former colliery. Coal originally came from mines in the Lothians and then from mines in Fife, Ayrshire and beyond. Now a low sulphur coal from Russia feeds the boilers which drives the generators to supply us with the essential power which our modern lives need. Some of that electricity is being used by myself to type this blog. Lets hope some of the electrons racing from Cockenzie are being put to worthy use.

Before I go, you will be wanting to know about the other castle in the panorama. It is to the right and is known as Liberton Tower. Built in the 15th. century, it has passed through many hands and is privately owned and not open to the public.

Look at the panorama again and let your imagination and creative skills take you back through the centuries and the millenniums to times past. Isn't history fantastic? Be sure that you have a good warm coat and your vest on when you get back to the ice age and watch the Law being polished.

Until the next time.....


Friday, 2 March 2012

Lomography - into Room 101 ?

I have reached that certain age were I have become a SOS (Silly Old Sod) and all of the ills of our society are my fault as I am a member of the 'Ageing Population Problem'. This is a subject that I could go on at length but fear not dear reader, that is for another time. As the years roll (speed) by, you pick up and nurture many ideas, prejudices and downright bigoted opinions. These are matured by decades of life experiences and right or wrong, it is these prejudices and opinions that form the character and often cause the actions of an individual.

Where, you might ask, are these ramblings taking us. To the cult of Lomography, that's where. Cult is the only term that seems appropriate. In 1991, two student 'discovered' the Lomo camera, which had been around for some time. It was a crude Russian copy of a Japanese camera and they found that it's equally crude results had a certain 'charm'. I have nothing against the cheap Russian cameras. Good usable cameras are by their very nature, expensive. Many photographers started on their photographic journeys with a solid if basic Zenit or Zorki which gave them access to this wonderful hobby and interest. These cheap but solid cameras gave many, who would otherwise not have been able to afford more exotic German, Japanese and at one time, British equipment, an opportunity to record their world in a creative and effective way.

I myself started on my photo quest, when at a young age, I was given, by my Father, a Brownie 127. This was little more than a box camera, made from Bakelite, with a simple single element lens and a shutter that had only one setting. Still, although limited by small contact size black and white prints, I headed off into the world with what was to develop (sorry) into a life long interest in  preserving  images of the world around me. It still, to this day, fascinates me and as I started with the most basic of equipment, I in no way which to pass judgement on others and the modest equipment that their limited finances allow.

However, the cult of Lomography, see for yourself at lomography. com, is a bit like The Emperor's New Clothes. I'll give you a few minutes to go and have a look at the web site and see what you think....

Great, you have come back. What did you think of the blurred, out of focus pictures, that make little attempt at composition? Perhaps I am being to critical. However I have spent my life trying to improve on the photographs that I have taken. From the Brownie 127 through Pentax, Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Canon and Olympus cameras and lenses, I have striven to produce photographs that have a balanced composition, are focussed on the subject and correctly exposed. In short, I have, using the skills that I have learnt and with what little talent that I may possess, tried to record the world around me in a clear and informative way. Photography is first and foremost about communication. It is about one persons attempts to transmit to an other, the tones of light, the colour and texture, the people and the situation or place that they are in. This means that decisions have to be made by the photographer, which if done correctly, will make that communication successful and worthwhile. The two photograph shown here, while not my best, involved various decisions being made at the scenes and then further thought had to be made when I processed them in my photo editor software to produce the ultra coloured versions you see here. As to whether they communicate anything is for you to say. While the scenes exist, the record that I have produced is all mine, made by my decisions. No camera, how unique it's abilities, could produce the above images.  There is thought behind those images, the thoughts of one human being hopefully transmitted to an other.  

Having written the above ramblings, I now have to answer the question posed in my title to this piece. Should Lomography and Lomographers be consigned to Room 101 forever?

In truth I cannot do that because on reflection, photography is about fun and lomography would seem to have a high quota of fun. Plus, an even greater reason to accept the lomographers of this world is the important fact that lomography uses film. As long as they use film, it will be available for me when I get the urge to take one of my old film cameras for a walk.

However, having taken my Room 101 sword from it's jewel encrusted scabbard, it must taste blood.  Therefore I present for permanent incarceration in that room, the rude and inconsiderate scum that on approaching me on a narrow pavement, fail to balance my movements in making it easier to pass each other. It seems that I must either be invisible or having seen me make a compromise, they don't feel the need to make such a move. I feel that it reflects on the lack of respect for our fellow human beings and a general selfishness that now seems to invade all levels of our society.

Good, the sword can go back. Thanks for sharing my little literary scribblings.

Until the next time.....

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Bings of West Lothian

This is a recent photo that I took of that part of the County of West Lothian that I can see from the western  side of Edinburgh, where I have lived most of my life. However, I was born in West Lothian and as a child I can remember passing these monuments to the industrial history of the region when, as a family, we made visits to my Father's relations in Linlithgow. My memories of these man made hills are that they were once a bright deep orange. However, much of that colour has diminished with the ravages of time, the growing of vegetation and the general wear and tear caused by the weather and the atmosphere, much the same as has happened to your writer.

These Bings were the result of the spoil from the mining and extracting of oil from the shale rock and this region had some of the first commercial shale oil refineries in the world. If you are interested in such industrial history, apart from the Bings themselves, it is still possible to find other remains of that once great business, although most have been reclaimed by nature or built over with industrial estates. Many years ago, there were attempts to have these 'blots on the landscape' removed, particularity after the Aberfan disaster in Wales when a coal spoil heap collapsed on a school and houses in the village. Then it was discovered that the shale spoil could be used in road building but despite this, the Bings are still there and I would assume there would be an outcry if a decision was made to remove them. They remain, as a monument to the men and women who worked, often in terrible conditions, to provide the beginnings of a world wide industry on which we all now depend.

A little research has confirmed that they will still be there long after I have gone. They evidently are sites of significant importance to the flora and fauna of the area and the UK. The ecology and biodiversity of Bings means that they offer refuge for rare species of both animals and plants and as the Bings only exist in West Lothian, this gives a unique significance to the area. They are also the location for some of the UK's scarce lichen and moss species and one provides a site for a SWT nature reserve. Add the recreation value for walkers, with dogs or not and motorcyclists and you have an interesting, important and in a strange way, beautiful landscape.

I am determined to climb and explore some of the 19 sites, taking my camera with me to record every aspect of these unique and interesting remains from our industrial past. Forget Munro Bagging, I shall not rest until I have bagged all 19 Bings.

Bing Bagging, I like the sound of that!

Until the next time.....

Friday, 17 February 2012

Hammer - Has Risen Again

In my youth, I was a serious film fan, making many visits to the cinemas of Edinburgh, many (most) now no longer existing. This was in the days before the rise of the multiplex, when each cinema had it's own character and it was within their darkened voids that I saw many a great film and many not so great. It was also during this time that I was able to enjoy the vistas of the cinema widescreens and the epics that were usually produced in the various formats. CinemaScope, VistaVision, Todd-AO, Panavision and Cinerama and all the rest became a great interest to me but as I can see your eyes glazing over, I shall keep my widescreen enthusiasm for another blog.

Visits to the cinema or 'the pictures' are now rare and are usually to Filmhouse, Edinburgh's art and repertory cinema and home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. So it was, on one of those rare visits, that I took my wife on a St. Valentine Day visit to the pictures. Now the multiplex offered much choice and I could have treated the love of my life to movies such as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, War Horse, The Descendants, The Vow or even The Muppets. However, being the old romantic that I am, the treat was a ghost story, The Woman in Black. I can thoroughly recommend this film which returns to the simply idea of telling a tale while attempting to frighten you out of your wits. There is nothing original in the techniques used to scare you in the film but you are drawn into this little world and it's terrible secrets and Daniel Radcliffe produces a fine performance as the young widower. The cinema was full of many young girls, claiming to be twelve or over and I feared that this would spoil the film for me. To my surprise, I was reminded of the reason why there is no better way of enjoying a film and that is the shared experience of laughter or tears or screams, the latter being the most prevalent at this showing. I was reminded of a late night showing, many years ago, of Hammer Films 'Dracula'. When leaving the cinema, there was a buzz from the audience that had shared the exciting ending of that film. Mention of Hammer is interesting because The Woman in Black is a Hammer film. Of course it is not the same company. The name and the library of films, still owned by Hammer, are being carried forward by an American group using the name of Exclusive, the original company of that name, being the original distributor of the early Hammer films.
Many distributors were involved with Hammer when the latter was at their peak and those distributors  will still have the rights to many of the best Hammer films. However, I wish the new Hammer Films and the Exclusive Media Group much success and hope to see the Hammer name on many future productions.

While the youngsters added to the enjoyment of the film, I was also reminded why I seldom sit in the darkness of a cinema watching the light and shadows flow across a white screen. Two old ladies behind us talk throughout the film as if they were watching the tele in their living room. I realise that this is minor annoyance compared to what many have to put up with when they visit the cinema but the two old dear's narration did not enhance my enjoyment of the film. I will say no more on this as I feel this could be the subject of a future Room 101 blog.

In closing, the last few days here have enjoyed the sort of weather that suggest that Spring may not be long in coming. My snow shovel has stayed unused (I'm I tempting fate here) and the days are getting longer. This photo shows that the crocus flowers think that it is Spring. I hope they are right.

Until the next time......

Monday, 13 February 2012

Back Again

You, Dear Reader, may be forgiven, if you thought that this writer had died, left the country or had found new accommodation at Her Majesty's Pleasure. You will, I hope, be glad to learn that none of the above apply, I was simply busy with other things. Mind you, I could have perhaps made a little bit more effort. It would seem that I have a long way to go, before writing becomes less of an effort   and flows more easily


   The above photo was taken today in the town of Musselburgh which adjuncts to the eastern side of Edinburgh. This view of the River Esk, which flows through the town, is looking west to the old bridge. It would have been nice if the sun had made more of an effort to brighten the scene. However, the sun did make an appearance later, which at this time of year, must be considered a bonus.

This is a view of Fisherrow beach, part of said town, looking west to the Edinburgh outline. Fishing is still operated from the small harbour, which can be seen behind the sail, although I would imagine that most of the business carried out from the harbour is now with pleasure craft, judging from the number of small sailing boat taking shelter within. The Gent on the beach was carrying a spade so I presume was in search of some form of bait for fishing. Standing at this point can be, to put it mildly, a bit bracing. However, today was very pleasant and you can not say better than that in mid February.

Here is a shot from said harbour, looking west to Edinburgh and the Port of Leith. Both boats would appear to be working boats awaiting the tide. There were however, many small sailing boat waiting for their opportunity to brave the wind and waves of the Firth of Forth. The sturdy stone walls that protect this little harbour that must have witnessed much in their long existence.

I hope that these blogs become more regular and to help in that aim, I intend to carry a camera with me as much as possible and feature what I see on my travels. They may not be the ultimate in photographic art but they will allow me to share a little of my life and my views of the world I inhabit with you. 

Until the next time.....   

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Forth Bridge

There has been much written recently about The Forth Bridge and the unique point in it's history that it has now reached. This massive steel structure, since it was built, has always required vast quantities of paint to keep the elements at bay and protect this impressive bridge from disappearing into a pile of rust. The photo above shows the bridge (or some of it) on a quiet day.  The sun can shine brilliantly  on it's brick red magnificence but nature can, on a regular basis, re-assert it's command over us mere mortals, with some of the worst and most demanding weather anywhere.

It could be said that the bridge that we know, started on the 28th. day of December 1879. It was in the evening of that day, forty or so miles to the north of the River Forth, that the bridge, which crossed the wide expanse of the River Tay on it's way to the city of Dundee, collapsed. There had been a fierce winter storm and the bridge failed when a north bound train was in the process of crossing it. All of the passengers and crew died on that freezing cold night and the North British Railway, which had spent many years trying to build a direct route from Edinburgh to the north, found that the first of it's great bridges crossing the formidable estuaries of the Tay and the Forth had gone. The engineer of the Tay bridge was  a Sir Thomas Bouch and he had also set the designs for a suspension bridge over the Forth. As the Tay Bridge had seemed a somewhat fragile and delicate structure and possibly not too well put together, his plans for the Forth Bridge, the building of which was about to start, were thrown out. The new design was to be as  strong as possible and the Victorian age threw up the very man to do the job. William Arrol became the contractor for not only the Forth Bridge but the second Tay Bridge and also the Tower Bridge in London, all being worked on at the same time. It is due to this man, that the Forth Bridge still stands and is still doing the job it was built to do.

You might be tempted to think that this writer has completely forgotten the purpose of this blog but never fear, we have finally arrived and the answer is that they have stopped painting the bridge. Not out of awkwardness or lack of money. They simply do not have to lift a paint brush again for perhaps twenty to twenty five years. The structure was taken back to the bare metal and then treated to the multi-layer paint technology of oil rigs. It has taken ten years of hard, difficult and frequently dangerous work but it has been worth it.

This means that the saying 'its like painting the Forth Bridge' can no longer be applied to any job or work that seems never ending. Since its construction, the job of painting was constant. Trying to cover the vast area of metal took so long, that when they had finished painting the bridge, the painters had to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

One of Scotland's great monuments has never looked better and it is something we should all be very proud of. There has been suggestions that a permanent viewing platform should be placed on the north most tower and while there have been the usual moaners, I for one, would love to enjoy the views such a tower would afford. If the Victorians can build such a marvellous structure as THE Forth Bridge, why should we not be able to construct what would be an excellent visitor attraction and I would be at the front of the queue.

Incidentally, the steam locomotive of the ill fated train that went to the cold depths of the River Tay was raised and put back into service, being the only survivor of the accident. Railwaymen then always referred to it as 'The Diver'.

Until the next time.          

Friday, 27 January 2012

Room 101

As I find writing a bit of a chore and it being only too easy to busy myself with some other activity, I have come up with an idea that I hope will get me tapping on the keyboard more often. As I am sure, even with your good self, there is many a time you would like to put someone, some thing or some activity into Room 101, as on the television programme. Working on the basis that it is easier to Moan and Whinge than it is to write or make positive comments, I hope that my blog count increases and I simply become more used to expressing my thoughts in words. I promise not to take advantage of this licence to M & W and will try to find some positive element in my desired additions to the dark recesses of that room.

CYCLISTS - There, I've said it.
                      I didn't wake up one morning with a sudden hatred of those of my fellow citizens who like to balance on a couple of spoked wheels as they make their way around the universe. Hatred is probably too strong a word, but I do find that on far too many occasions, I am possessed of an fearsome anger at the antics and some time dangerous activities that cyclist seem to think they have every right to perform. I am well aware that motorist (the subjects of a future rant) are no innocents but I am sick of the constant underdog tag that cyclists like to cling to, when I have for many years witnessed selfish, rude and sometime dangerous behaviour, in exercising their right to cycle where they wish. No one is forced to ride a bike, it is a decision that should be made, taking in to account all the factors. If the road is too dangerous, then that does not infer a right to cycle on the pavement instead.

Most Cyclists here in Edinburgh (and I assume elsewhere), seem to fall into one of two types. The first is kitted up with all the gear and while they are to be commended for taking such care, it does seem to grant them a position of superiority, they are always right and the rest of humanity is wrong. The second type ignores the special clothing, helmets etc. but does carry something else on their bike, namely, a big chip on the shoulder, probably because they would rather be in a car. As a pedestrian, I have been the victim of verbal abuse and threats of violence from both types. It makes me wonder at the health claims for cycling if the state of their nerves are stretched to such an extent that such automatic outbursts seem justified to them, even when they are completely in the wrong. It would appear that traffic lights etc. don't apply to cyclist. I should add that all of my experiences and observations of the above were collected while being a pedestrian or a bus passenger. As a driver, I fear cyclists and give them as wide a berth as possible, which is not always easy.

However, while I try to make allowances for the failings of my fellow man (it's usually male cyclists that cause the abuse), there is one area in which I can not forgive our cycling friends and it is the canal. Edinburgh is lucky to have a restored canal on which a pleasant and relaxed walk should be enjoyed along it's towpath. The Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal does not actually reach Glasgow but instead connects with the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk. The connection was made in times past, by a staircase of locks but now the magnificent Falkirk Wheel, which is well worth a visit, does that duty. The canal starts (or finishes) at the Tollcross area of central Edinburgh and meanders through the countryside to the west of the city, following the contours of the land requiring no locks until it reaches Falkirk. This lack of locks gave the Union Canal the nickname of 'The Mathematical River'. The canal should afford a pleasant walk, enjoying the wildlife, plants and the lack of traffic fumes but I seldom take advantage of this linear haven as it has become a cycle expressway and the lack of respect for any other user of this quiet byway makes me very angry. I do not object to cyclists using the towpath but please respect others and do not treat this ancient thoroughfare as your own.

Now that is off my chest, may I close with this observation. When I had the day job, I walked home most evenings and my route took me along the former Corstorphine Branch railway line. This is used by cyclist and I am proud to say that I was on friendly nodding terms with most of them. Why this stretch of path should be different I do not know but I hope it shows that I do not hate cyclist as such but just wished that they gave some respect to others as they obviously expect themselves.

In closing, todays photographs are of photographs or they would be if I could get the system to do what it has done often before. How I love computers!

Correction, here are the photographs. I have tried to sell, at local craft fairs, a selection of my photographs on my Daughter's paper craft stall. My success has been limited, with my best customer being the said daughter !  However, I am very pleased with how they look on her wall and that has given me some ideas on display and promotion at the next fair. I am also planning to present them for sale on the internet in the near future, so I will continue to work on creating new pictures and trying new techniques.

Until the next time, best wishes.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Picnic at Blackness

 Today, my wife and I took a little trip to Blackness, on the south coast of the Firth of Forth. Situated to the west of Edinburgh and the two Forth Bridges (to be joined by a third in a few years time), this one time port is a very pleasant place to walk and enjoy the open freshness of the area and indeed it was very fresh today. Despite being only the 23rd. of January and rather cold, the sky was as blue as you see in these photos, which were taken last summer. I did not take anything today, just enjoyed the views and chatting to my lovely wife, who enjoys this area very much.

The Port of Blackness was once a very busy port and was and still is the official port of Linlithgow, my home town. The castle, which has guarded the port for centuries, is well worth a visit and there are also interesting walks, both east and west of the village. If you have a small sailing boat, then there is a club where you could keep your craft in the sheltered bay, ready for great sailing when the wind blows (which is often).                                                                                          

On our way to Blackness, we stopped off at the New Hopetoun Farm Shop, with the intention of spending a Gift Voucher which we had received as part of our Christmas present from one of my brothers and his wife. I wish that the critics of Scottish food would visit places like this and see the range, variety and quality of food that is available both locally and in Scotland. While I searched hard and long, I could find no evidence of Deep Fried Mars bars or the like. If you love food and appreciate quality and taste, then a visit would be very worth while. We found a number of items which made up a very pleasant and tasty picnic lunch, while enjoying the views and the fresh air.

Until the next time, Bye.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


I have recently become aware of the importance of memory and the crucial part that it plays in our individual lives but also that of our society and civilisation. We are nothing but a collection of memories, that if they were to disappear, would leave us with nothing but a blank sheet. It is what we remember that shapes our lives, the decisions we make and most importantly, how we interact with our family, friends and the world at large. If you read my previous blog, you will see that I was greatly affected by a past memory and in this case, not in a very positive way. Others might have reacted differently which illustrates that character can make a vast difference but it still needs the building blocks of memory, if they crumble, nothing is left.

I have reached that age in which I have many 'Senior Moments', having trouble remembering that actress's name in that play last night or what was my purpose for climbing the stairs or entering a certain room. In the past, I never made a great effort to remember the different elements of my life, content to think that they will be somewhere in my brain and that I will be able to retrieve them when required.

Our brains contain a time machine. It might be a bit wonky sometimes, rather like Doctor Who and his TARDIS time machine on a bad day but it is the best that we have and I for one, will be making every effort to use that powerhouse and the vast library of thoughts that it houses. It is my life and I would be a lot poorer if much of the joys, pleasures and even the sadness of the past were lost to me.

The above photo was taken in Dalry Cemetery on the western edge of central Edinburgh. It is an old cemetery and I doubt that it's occupants are bothered by any new additions to their eternal rest. As with any old cemetery, I find myself drawn to the shapes and lighting in these isolated islands in our cities. Now that I look at the photograph, I see that it would have been better to crop the image, to rid the picture of that dark area at the top. It was however, the word 'memory' that caught my attention on this stone, as I thought how many of the souls resting here would now be remembered. Their family and friends would now themselves be memories,  destine to fade as the world goes on.

This is a better crop of the picture which was taken on a pleasant summer afternoon. The image was processed as an Antique Colour with soft focus corners.

In closing, I have thoughts that my photography, each image a memory in it's own right, could also be a great tool in stimulating my own faltering brain cells. Keeping my memories alive, keeping them available so that I am not just a empty blank sheet.

Until the next time, Bye.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


After my first blog, I must apologise for the many errors that it contained. I can only say in my defence that I was so keen to publish my first blog, the care and checking that should have been done was hurried.  I shall, in future try harder to achieve a higher standard. As I want you to return, it is my duty to make my thoughts clear and well presented so that my blog is a pleasant and easy read.

Now, a little sob story, which I hope will give you some idea as to why I find writing this and other writings so difficult. It might also go some way to explaining why I must write this blog. It is not just about my photography.

When I was in the latter years of my Primary School, my teacher was a Mr. Cant. His name was very appropriate, as he could not teach and fell back on the old method of belting children if they did not appear to understand, rather than trying to find the best way to pass on the knowledge that would be with us for the rest of our lives. He obviously thought that it was all our fault and that we were being lazy and in-attendant. Every Wednesday afternoon, he would read a short piece that my classmates and I had to write down. Our work was then taken in to be marked and the following week we would be given the results and if we had a certain number of errors, we were belted. I can't remember if we were given the results before or after that Wednesday's piece but I do remember the feeling of dread when returning to school after lunch every Wednesday and the emotions of relief if I had escaped from last week's classs-work without being belted. It never occurred to me to mention any of this to my parents, it was my own silent torment which has coloured my character ever since. Writing has therefore always been associated with pain despite having a desire on my part to put down, in words, how I feel or to find expression of my ideas and thoughts. I realise that if my character had been different, perhaps stronger, this weekly torture might have had less effect on me. I am also aware that some of the fault may be mine and that I may be finding a scapegoat for my own failings.

However, the time has come to banish this all to the past. Our late Mother, when someone had been rude or nasty to her, had this marvellous knack of finding a reason why she thought they had acted in that way. This was not just a good Christian attitude, which she had in abundance, but was also a excellent way of dealing with the negative aspects of people and their demons. In the fifty plus years since that time, I have often wished Mr. Cant the horrors of hell on his soul but perhaps he had many demons of his own. I have a feeling that he was sacked for assaulting a child after I had passed from his dubious care. He certainly should not have had a job as a teacher. So Mr. Cant, I pray that you have found some sort of peace and I hope that I can now move on with the rest of my life without the burden that I took on silently all those years ago.

Despite the above tale, I have no problems with Wednesdays and in fact quite like that mid-week day.  

On a happier note, in my first blog, I showed a picture with unusual colours.

I have always liked paintings with strong unnatural colours and wanted to achieve a similar effect in photography. Not a desire to create a photograph that tries to pretend that it is a painting, that I think is pointless. I wanted to find a photographic equivalent. A little experimenting with my photo editing software has produced these images and many others.

Until the next time. Goodbye.


Saturday, 14 January 2012


Hello and welcome to my little bit piece of the wide world of the internet. I have started this Blog as a means of publishing my thoughts, opinions and no doubt, some slightly bigoted views on my and other peoples photography, my life, the world and everything. I have my lovely daughter to thank for getting me started on this new adventure and experience, although, any mistake and error or down right rubbish are all of my own creation. I hope that you, dear reader, will find my rambling thoughts worthy of a little of your time. One of the reasons that I wish to write this blog, is that I may find, as I write, somethings about myself and therefore, if you are tempted to return, we shall go on an adventure of discovery together.

At this moment, I shall say very little about myself but hope that, in time, more may be revealed as I ramble on about my interest and ideas. However, to give you some idea of the crackpot behind the keyboard I will admit to being male, in my early sixties, living with my lovely wife in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, which is the northernmost part of the UK. I am retired from the day job but still have difficulty finding time to do everything that I want to do.

The above photograph was taken at random from my collection and is a shot of Linlithgow Palace taken from the canal that flows through the town. The fine church in front of the palace ruins is Saint Michaels Church, one of the largest parish churches in Scotland. The original stone crown was replaced in the 1960s with the metal crown and even today, many feel that it does not fit in with the rest of the building. My late father, who was born and bred in the town hated the metal crown of thorns and after all these years and hundreds of visits, I am not to sure on which side of opinion I fall on. The building that lies below the church is the town's Burgh Halls. As with the Palace and Church, it is open to the public and is well worth a visit, with the bonus of a nice cafe which could be most welcome as you descend the hill after visiting the attraction that sit above the halls.

The town has many other places to eat and drink and amongst the other attractions, is the town museum at Annet House in the High Street. I spent the first few year of my life in the town and although the museum fails to make any mention of this fact, it does offer a splendid overview of the industries, people and history of the town. There is also much on the other famous person to come from the town, namely Mary Queen of Scots, the lady who was tragically executed by Elizabeth the First of England. There is also a present day politician who come from the town but we will not talk of him today.

I shall close now but leave you with the image on the left of which I shall say more next time.

For now, I wish you all the goodness you deserve and hope that we will get together again soon.